Nfld. & Labrador

Diver continues year-long ocean cleanup with cash boost from Bay Roberts

Shawn Bath has taken a year off of work to clean harbours and coves around the island, and his main source of income is donations.

Mayor hopes other towns will help donate to the cause

Shawn Bath has taken a year off from work to clean harbours in Newfoundland. (Jane Adey/CBC)

Shawn Bath of Twilillingate is the real-life Aquaman. 

Bath has taken a year off of work to clean harbours and coves around the island, and his main source of income is donations.

"For most of it, pretty much every harbour is the same. Car tires everywhere, things like toilets, fridges, stoves, rubber clothes. Everything," Bath told CBC Radio's On the Go.

"Right now what I'm doing is trying to bring awareness to the problem of ocean trash by photographing what we take out of the water."  

Bath pulls tires from the Atlantic Ocean each time he dives. (Jane Adey/CBC)

But Bath doesn't do it from the land or by boat. He dives deep to clean up trash that many of us would never see.

The 21-year diving veteran finds tires, old fishing nets, bottles and home appliances among the trash he plucks from the Atlantic Ocean. 

Bath even wears a video camera on his head each time he dives and posts the footage on Facebook so there is clear evidence of his findings and just how polluted the harbours can be.

"Right now every wharf I jump off of, it looks like you're jumping into a dump site," he said.

Taking one for the team

Bath said he has been waiting for years for someone else to take on the cleanup effort, but he realized he'd better do it himself before he gets too old. 

He added that he has no personal funds left in his bank account whatsoever, and money comes in only through GoFundMe campaigns.

No funding has come from the provincial or federal governments, and Bath doesn't qualify for the $1.5 billion in funding from the Oceans Protections Plan the federal government announced in 2018.

Bath doesn't mind getting his hands dirty to help protect the ocean, despite having little funding to help him in the effort. (Shawn Bath/Facebook)

However, if there were a situation where Bath could receive ongoing financial support, he said, he'd keep cleaning up the ocean.

"The whole idea of this is the first year to bring awareness to the problem with our videos and our pictures, and showing what we can take out of the water," he said. 

In 10 months, he says, he has pulled more than 1,000 car tires from the bottom of the ocean floor.

Local donation

Bath's work has not gone unnoticed. 

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood took notice of how dedicated Bath has been to cleaning local harbours, and the town chipped in $500 for him to buy whatever added equipment he needs.

Bath says he always dives with a camera to provide proof of just how polluted Newfoundland's harbours can be. (Shawn Bath/Facebook)

Wood has even granted Bath access to the fire department to fill his scuba tanks, and the town picks up the trash Bath brings to land to save him the time and energy of clearing it a second time. 

"We spend a lot of money picking up garbage. When it comes to the ocean, of course, we don't see anything. It frightens you if you think about it — what goes into the water," Wood said. 

"The main reason why we did it was to show our appreciation and also to encourage him to continue if he'd like."

Wood hopes his town's donation will put Bath on the radar for other municipalities and organizations, such as legions and Lions Club branches, to donate to the cause.

"This might be the start of something," Wood said. 

"I know he's really doing this out of the goodness of his heart and realizing that there's a need there."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On the Go


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